I was following an Instagram Q&A with a pretty big name interior designer, and they said that they had never used the same paint colour from one project to the next, and therefore they couldn't possibly answer the question "what is a good colour to paint my house?"
He went on to explain that each home is designed for the "owner's personality" and therefore each home has had a different shade of paint used.
Now I'm not here to call bullshit, but unless you're part wizard and the rest holy-deity, I highly doubt that any interior designer out there has never duplicated an idea, let alone the shade of grey used to paint a house.
Regardless of the reasons he gave, that answer bugged me for a fair few days. Not mainly because that sort of answer defeats the purpose of holding an Instagram Q&A, but because that specific question could 100% have been answered, and now there is a poor individual out there, still baffled about what shade of paint to buy.
There is definitely a high probability that the person who asked this question doesn't yet read The Basic Principle, but this one is for you...and anyone else out there who is currently puzzled by paint.
Colour is important, so let's just sideline this conversation and focus specifically on the general wall colour. The colour that's going to cover at least 80% of your walls. We will get to the feature colours in time.
So you're about to paint your house? Well unless you've been living under a magnolia rock for the last fifteen years, you've probably already decided that you're after a grey of some sort. Be it light or dark, cool or warm, greys create the perfect platform on which to build any scheme, which is why we keep coming back to them.
When it come to choosing that perfect shade, I'm pretty confident that for a lot of people out there, the next few steps go a little something like this:
1) Pick up the latest "insert-brand-name-here" paint fan deck.
2) Pick all the greys that sound nice, or the ones you can recall your mate Cressida, from Clapham rave about.
3) Spend way more than you should on sample pots and head home to go through the motions of painting up twenty-one squares on the wall.
4) After much deliberation, you eventually pick one square at random, because they all bloody look the same / look nothing at all like the fan deck suggested.
5) Gawk at the price that it would cost to buy the 35 gallons of paint needed for the recommended 4 coats.
6) Head to your local Home-Base and get the paint colour-matched.
7) Go back home and paint your house a colour that wasn't even one of the twenty-one carefully selected greys at the start.
This might be the internet, but I'm pretty sure I can sense a few nods out there.
When it comes to selecting a colour, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with these "insert-brand-name-here" paint companies. They are great at what they do, and what they do is package lovely colours wrapped in emotive ribbons. However the chances are, that when you don't even know where to start, you aren't really bothered about what animals breath they have named a colour after, or what type of stone was the inspiration. You just want something that works and is tried and tested. Why does it need to be fifty shades of grey, when it could easily be more like ten?
So what is my advice on greys?
When painting with neutrals (greys) I always find it best to go for a tone that comes in a range of lights and darks. Loads of paint companies have stand alone colours, that might work with one another on a colour wheel (if you can work that shit out) but they make it hard to find the "one shade up" or "one shade down" without having to spin the wheel and start all over again. Hence all the time spent with the swatches on the walls.
Whilst this isn't a punt for a particular brand, I always find myself going back to Paint & Paper Library when selecting a grey. It's got nothing to do with who they are as a company, it's because their colours, particularly their neutrals, come in a range of shades. Which means, once you've found the tone you like, it's easy as deciding how light or dark you want it. It also means that you can just pic a light, medium, dark, and cover all your grey needs throughout the house.
My go-to's from Paint & Paper Library are SLATE for warm greys and COTTON for cools.
I am such a fan on the SLATE range that I think I have used a combo of the five shades in every job in London so far. Maybe all my clients have had the same grey personality...who knows.
Not that we really need a replacement for white paint, but SLATE 1 is it. It's got the freshness and crispness of white without the cold edge. A perfect colour for ceilings, skirting, architraves and doors. A solid for a bathroom, or an all over shade if you still like white, but don't want to be boring AF.
SLATE 2 and SLATE 3 are literally the perfect everyday shades of grey that I am surprised other greys still exist. Either one works as an all over grey, but SLATE 3 is probably my favourite, as it has a little more depth and provides the perfect contrast with SLATE I accents.
SLATE 2 is safe. If you have a gun to your head and have to chose a colour that wont offend, go with SLATE 2...and then maybe assess your need for such high risk decorating strategies.
SLATE 4, just like its lightest counterpart SLATE 1, I would probably use as secondary accents. Again this would work great for skirting and architraves, if you are keen to switch things up and go dark.
SLATE 5, I will admit, has had the least airtime in any of my jobs. Mainly because I think there are bolder colours out there. Nonetheless it has a richness and a depth to it that if you are keen for a higher contrast than SLATE 4, you will not be disappointed.
I'm aware that Paint & Paper Library is technically an "insert-brand-name-here" paint company, and thus their products do come with a price tag. So as a little bonus tip, on how to avoid the issue with colour-matching gone wrong, if you don't feel like forking out the full price for the four coats...Save your cash and use colour matched paint for the undercoats, applying only the final coat in the "insert-brand-name-here" paint colour.
Colour matches, whilst usually incorrect, are very often only a fraction off the mark in terms of colour. When used as an undercoat, and covered in the real thing on the last coat, you would never pick up on the variation in colour.
Finally, whilst I find the whole idea of painting sample swatches on the wall to "test the colour in different lights" akin to guessing the gender of a baby based on pregnancy cravings, if you are going to paint up samples, don't do it on white walls. If you are nervous about selecting a grey that is too dark, painting a sample on a white wall is only going to make the sample appear darker. Rather paint up a little sample board, and use that to test the colour's relationship with the other finishes in the room.